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SUNDAY 14 APRIL 2024

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Forgive Huw Edwards for coercive behaviour and bullying? I beg to differ










Odd, isn’t it, how two people informed by the same facts and guided by the same principles can reach entirely different conclusions?


My good friend and colleague Alan Frame argues that we should be tolerant of the mess that BBC presenter Huw Edwards has got himself into and show him understanding and compassion.


I beg to differ.


Alan says he is shocked and saddened at the revelation that the man accused of paying a teenager for sexually explicit pictures is Edwards. Me too. He says that Edwards has shown himself to be calm and authoritative in conveying the majesty of State occasions to the millions watching on TV. I agree.


He points out that Edwards has suffered from clinical depression for 20 years and we should take that into account before rushing to judgment. Well, up to a point.


The question is: Did depression cause the behaviour that Edwards is accused of, or did he become depressed because of some perverted compulsion? That’s a matter for the shrink.


And when precisely did he seek help and refuge in professional treatment for his illness? Was it before or after the allegations became public? I think we should be told.


We have all seen instances of actors, rock stars and other bad boys hurriedly checking into the Betty Ford clinic as though it were a religious sanctuary to avoid or delay the full might of the law descending on them.


It’s a mea culpa without any need actually to say sorry. It buys time. And sympathy. It’s something for the lawyers to work with.


Almost with every passing hour, it is becoming clear that – while Edwards might not have done anything outright criminal – he has been guilty of bullying and coercive behaviour towards young strangers and even towards BBC colleagues.


This is not easily forgiven. He should not be allowed to get away with it simply because he is a respected and highly professional TV presenter.


Nor because that status lends him considerable power. Not even because he is regarded as a national treasure.


We have been here before with the BBC. No one needs reminding of the aberrant behaviour of a very few of their star front men. Their bosses knew but indulged them none the less.


Depression cannot serve as an excuse for Edwards. At best it is merely an explanation of why he acted as he did.


Like Alan, I have first-hand experience of the terrible harm this dreadful mental illness can wreak. A family member whom I loved and idolised as a kid was stricken with it.


He spent time in hospital, during which his business was sold without his knowledge. When he got out, his wife – unable to cope – left him and took their son with her.


He fled from South London to the West Country in search of peace, contracted cancer and died alone. My brother was the only person at his funeral.


It is shattering and I feel for Edwards and his family in their hour of despair.


But it should not absolve him of blame or spare him scrutiny and I am glad to learn that the BBC has decided to resume its investigation.